Meditation and The Eyes of a Stranger

Meditation with a stranger

Something odd and quite challenging happened to me in a meditation retreat I went to recently. Actually it was more of a conference where they had several experienced meditation gurus on stage and the audience simply listened.

(This pleased me at the time since I was with my husband who never meditated in his life so perhaps discussing the idea of it first was wise and hearing about it from anyone other than me I knew would have more impact also.)

On the second day of the conference we were comfortable in our chairs, always picking the same area to sit, the same side of the stage and the same general schedule gives us the usual comfort of a daily routine.

At the end of the day the speaker announced that he wanted the entire audience to participate in an exercise which in theory sounded quite simple.

We must find a partner in the room that we have no knowledge of, no familiarity of, and had never met before in any capacity. We were given only 1 minute to introduce ourselves.

Ok simple meditation exercise right?

On one hand you would think so because it was not possible to have any preconceived notions or judgment of this person which is why we weren’t able to talk for very long but on the other hand the unfamiliarity was what really brought up the difficulty.

We were instructed to sit cross legged from each other and simply stare into each other’s eyes without speaking for 10 full minutes!!

As the exercise began, time started to slow down and I was quite surprised by the emotions that came up. To stare at someone for five minutes that you have no prior experience with brings up a multitude of insecurities. I started thinking that somehow this person could see right through me and was able to read my mind and every sin I had ever committed in my life.

Beads of sweat began to form on my forehead and nervousness and fidgeting took over every so often. I could tell she was uncomfortable as well but that did not make the situation any better internally. We may as well have been sitting there naked because our eyes were locked in such a personal manner that I was shocked at how vulnerable and exposed something so seemingly simple could be so difficult.

After it was over we smiled at each other thankfully and I knew that she was feeling all the same feelings I felt so there really was no harm done and our safety was never in question.

In the end the turmoil, insecurities and vulnerability was all coming from within. I wondered what the exercise is really all about and why it was so difficult?

The vulnerability was understandable but why was the vulnerability so intense when there is no present danger. It was only after weeks of reflection that I realized that this exercise was in fact helpful because every fear I had was all within.

Perhaps this was the point of the exercise to put every single person into a vulnerable position and simply observe what comes up and the overwhelming consensus was that it was difficult and uncomfortable for most and even frightening for some.

I was somewhere in the middle feeling exhausted and needing time to reflect on my feelings, perhaps that’s the whole point of meditation in the first place. Thankfully we don’t have to meditate while looking into the eyes of a stranger on a regular basis but perhaps it’s something everyone should try at least once…an experience that forces you to confront the eyes of a stranger when in fact you are really confronting only yourself.

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